After a decade of closure and ongoing restoration work, on August 28th, 2021, the Root Schoolhouse reopened as a community space for events.
“It’s an exciting time!” exclaimed Courtney Dobyns, President, Root District Game Club (the schoolhouse Board of Directors). “The needs and visions of our supporters are so important to us as we get ready to move into this wonderful historic building and make this community venue come alive. The future of the schoolhouse will evolve as people come forward with their energies and special interests. We look forward to the collaboration.”
The project began in the summer of 2019 when the historic schoolhouse was jacked up from its crumbling foundation, the site was excavated, concrete was poured, the drainage issues were addressed, and the schoolhouse was placed back down on a new solid base. The finishing touches were wrapped up in the fall. But little did anyone know what lay ahead during 2020 while planning for the next phase in the building’s restoration.
“We had just applied for several grants, only to be turned down for three in the spring and one more in the fall due to the immediate pandemic needs and stiff competition for grant funding,” Dobyns said. “It felt like the world had been turned upside down socially and economically. The Board saw that we needed to take a deep breath and evaluate our plan.”
Fast forward to the spring of 2020, when contractors moved forward on the occupancy permit requirements with a complete rewiring of the building, widening the back door for ADA access, building the ADA access ramp, and excavating for the special parking space near the ramp. Although all jobs were not completed, a year’s extension on the state occupancy permit was granted.
With deep determination to move forward despite the challenges, and with an anonymous donation of $30,000, the dedicated Root Schoolhouse board gave a big push to get the code requirements funded so the schoolhouse could open this summer. Forty-eight supporters generously raised $10,000.
The Root Schoolhouse has gained significant recognition within the community, and Dobyns expressed her gratitude to all the volunteers who have stepped up to help. Some highlights of the evolution of the schoolhouse have included the first annual pie sale in October, holiday candles in the newly painted windows facing Union Village Road and receiving a special sign recognizing the schoolhouse’s inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Still left to do in 2021, is to erect the historical designation sign; hang and wire refurbished globe lights and kitchen lights; build ADA ramp, gutters, path, parking, and ADA portable toilet pad; install front step railings; repair the roof, finish basement insulation; mitigate poison ivy on property; and plant along the fence line.
Future projects to complete within three years include repairing the inside stairwell and main room ceiling; replacing the kitchen counter; finishing the backdoor to match other trim; repointing the chimney; cleaning and oiling the woodwork; painting the walls; tuning the piano; and repairing the slate blackboard ceiling.
“Beyond its historic preservation, our goal is to open the schoolhouse as a community space hosting educational and cultural events such as readings, musical gatherings, and maybe even collaborative events with neighboring farms for children and families,” said Dobyns. “There are limitless possibilities within our collective imagination. The enthusiasm expressed by our volunteers and townspeople makes the future look bright for this wonderful gem.”
The celebration was held from 3-6 p.m, Saturday, August 28th; inside and outside the schoolhouse at 987 Union Village in Norwich. All were welcome. There were games, music, appreciations and refreshments. For more information about the Schoolhouse, contact email@example.com or Courtney Dobyns at firstname.lastname@example.org.